Unsure of what to include in your graduate CV? We're here to school you!

If you are about to graduate from university, now's the time to kick your job-search efforts into a high gear, starting with your entry-level CV. In order to land the job you want, you'll need a polished CV that sets you apart from the other recent graduates and grabs the attention of recruiters and employers.

The team at TopCV has marked up a CV example for a recent graduate with some work experience to help you to get started. While your graduate CV may look different depending on the industry you're pursuing and your experiences, the example below should serve as a useful guide for most entry-level professionals.

Graduate CV example: How to write a CV for your first job after university

1. Include your LinkedIn profile

In today's labour market, it's not enough to have a polished graduate CV; employers also expect you to present your candidacy online. In fact, a Jobvite social recruiting study revealed that the overwhelming majority of employers (87%) use LinkedIn to evaluate candidates during the hiring process. Make it easy for HR Managers to find you by including a customised version of your LinkedIn profile URL along with your contact information at the top of your CV.

2. Make your job goals clear

Don't make your reader guess. State your target position by including a professional title above your CV personal statement. Then, use your personal statement to set the stage for the rest of your CV by succinctly highlighting your qualifications for such a job. Don't be afraid to edit some of the language to tailor the CV to the role, as this will increase your application's chances of achieving a high rating if it's scanned by an CV applicant tracking system (ATS).

3. Highlight your language skills

If you are fluent in more than one language, include these details on your CV. These skills are often considered attractive to employers and can differentiate you from other candidates. List each language and state your proficiency level (e.g. proficient, fluent, native speaker) towards the bottom of your CV. Then, include a short mention of your multilingual abilities in your personal statement so that the reader is sure to see it. Only list a foreign language on your CV if you'd feel comfortable conversing in that language at work or during the interview process.

4. Summarise your skills at the top

The top third of your CV should be a snapshot of everything an employer needs to know about your goals and qualifications. The idea is to grab your reader's attention early on, so that they wants to read on to learn more about you. In addition to including a professional title and CV personal statement, include a small section of key skills (also referred to as "core competencies") that summarise the skills and abilities you have that are relevant to the role you're pursuing. If you're unsure what to include, take a look at a few job adverts that interest you and take note of the requirements. If you've learnt those desired skills during an internship, an academic project, or independent study, add them to this section. By incorporating these keywords into your CV, you're also increasing your chances of an ATS ranking your CV highly.

5. Give your education top billing

Think of your CV as a marketing document, rather than a transcript of your academic records and jobs. The goal is to place your best selling points towards the top of the CV, where the HR Manager is sure to see them. For senior professionals with several years of experience in their industry, these details usually include their most recent career history. However, when you're a recent university graduate, your newly printed degree should get the spotlight.

Include the name of the university, the degree you earned, the year you graduated (or the month and year you're expected to graduate), and any honours you may have received. If you don't have any relevant work experience to tout on your CV, consider including details about some of the modules you took that illustrate the skills you've learned or details of your projects or dissertation. 

6. Describe your experience with action verbs

If you find that most of the statements in your work experience section begin with either "Responsible for" or "Assisted," then it's time to get a bit more creative. Swap out these weak and overused terms for stronger action verbs that paint a more colourful picture of your skills and experience. For example, instead of using "assisted" or "helped," try "facilitated," "supported" or "represented." When you find yourself writing "managed" for the umpteenth time, consider using "guided" or "led" instead.

7. Quantify your work where possible

The better you're able to quantify your work, the easier it is for employers to grasp the value that you could bring to their organisation. While no one expects a recent university graduate's CV to be brimming with quantifiable achievements, it's important to provide numbers and other specifics wherever possible. These details provide context for the reader. For example, instead of stating that you "Put together press kits," explain how you "Assembled press kits with product samples, fact sheets, and recent press coverage for 5 top health and beauty clients, including E45 and Oral B." Doesn't that sound more impressive?

8. Share your philanthropic pursuits

Not only do employers look favourably upon candidates who are actively involved in volunteering, mentoring, or other non-profit work, but these experiences can also bolster your skill set. If you don't have much internship experience or you've decided to pursue a role that's not aligned with your area of study at university, consider seeking out a skills-based volunteer opportunity. This is a great way to fill an employment gap or supplement your work history. If this is of interest, visit Reach Volunteering to be matched with causes that fit your objectives.

9. List your technical abilities

Make a list of all the tools and systems that you're comfortable using in the workplace and that are relevant to your current job search. This list should include anything from social media tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to programming languages like Java and Python.

After reviewing the job vacancies that interest you and speaking with professionals who currently work in your desired field, you may realise that it's necessary for you to increase your proficiency in a certain skill or tool in order to improve your employability. If this is the case, take a look at sites such as edX or Coursera for free or low-cost online courses, or browse YouTube for instructional videos.

10. Make note of interesting hobbies

While there's some debate as to whether hobbies belong on a modern-day CV, recent graduates have a bit more leeway in this area. If you do choose to include a list of hobbies on your CV:

  • Avoid touchy subjects like religion and politics unless they are totally relevant to your target role – if you're applying for a religious organisation, for example

  • List hobbies that demonstrate your qualifications for the job or are very unique - they can be interesting conversation starters during the initial interview "small talk."

Click on the following link for more tips on how to write a graduate CV.

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